Have you ever tasted a 1990 La Tâche?
Special Blog Contribution by Jerry Kolins, MD
Certified WSET Level 3 and hopeful for the Diploma Level (Level 4)
Let me share my experience. It is not easy to analyze oneself. I truly don’t understand why I am fascinated by wine. In the 1980s I read a lot about the history of wine, which is another way of saying, I learned quite a bit about the history of the world. That’s when I first heard of the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. It is the most sought-after wine in the world. Why do I say that in an unequivocal manner? Well, I had a bottle of 2000 Romanée-Conti in my cellar. I mentioned this at a restaurant, George’s at the Cove, in La Jolla, CA about 10 years ago. A gentleman overheard my comment. He turned to me and offered $10,000 in cash for that bottle! I said “No.”
La Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, or DRC for short, owns several vineyards in Burgundy. They have sole ownership of Romanée-Conti and La Tâche and ownership in Echezeaux, Grand Echezeaux, Richebourg Grand Cru, and others.
In 1993 I bought a six-bottle case of 1990 DRC that contained two bottles of La Tâche and one bottle of Romanée-Conti as well as a sampling of the other properties they own. The 6-bottle case cost about $2500 in 1993. Today, a single bottle of Romanée-Conti is priced at over $20,000 per bottle. The 1990 La Tâche is $10,000 per bottle. I opened the 1990 La Tâche last Christmas, 2021, with my closest friend in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Do you read the writings of Robert Parker on Burgundy? He often says in his book, Burgundy, you will experience the best wines in the world when enjoying Burgundy. But it’s a gamble. Sometimes the best just doesn’t last and the disappointment needs to be accepted. That happened last year with the 1990 La Tâche.
Imagine storing this wine for about 30 years only to wonder why it lost its balance. Four of us tasted this wine, and three of the four turned to Silver Oak, Alexander Valley, to finish the evening. I was the fourth that refused to give up on this wine. But I should have. It never recovered from that initial impression. Of course, the fruit was gone but the astringency remained intensely without any enjoyable tertiary notes.
Remember, two bottles came in that 6 bottles wooden case. That is when I decided to turn to Mariano Doble and the Vine Society. I asked Mariano if we could get Master Sommelier, David Keck, to taste with us my second bottle. Surely David could tell us what happened to this highly praised wine. I stored it at 57F for 30 years.
David Keck, MS, agreed to the tasting. The event occurred at the Davidson Village Inn at 5 pm on November 30, 2022. David opened the bottle giving me proper instructions on the process. (My personal goal is to pass the certified sommelier exam given by the Court of Master Sommeliers next summer.) David poured the wine for me, Roger Gerhardt, Michael Orlando Senior, and Mariano Doble. I was ready to learn what bad thing happened to a $10,000 bottle of wine.
I tasted the wine before David had a chance. I was stunned. The bouquet was ethereal. Nothing like last year. David asked me what I thought of the nose. The nose is 90% of the wine experience. All I could say was that we are dealing with the aromas of rare spices. These aromas caught my olfactory system off guard. I could not take my nose out of the glass. I am sure these aromas are illegal in most states. Then I said, “Please pour me a little more.”
Let me answer the question...was the price worth the wine? The answer to that question is related to one’s philosophy of life. For those of us who think life is all about experiences, this is that once-in-a-lifetime experience. Yet I also know millionaires who refuse to dine at a three-star Michelin restaurant. They tell me the experience is all about getting the check at the end of the meal. That’s the experience they do not wish to encounter. Obviously, I belong to the former group.
I don’t understand why the two bottles were so different. One was monumental, and last year’s was deserted for Silver Oak! Wine is like the title of the book I recently published, i.e., Life is What Happens While You Make Other Plans. Check it out on Amazon.
Postscript: I tasted a bottle of 2000 Romanée-Conti (valued at $20,000). The 1990 La Tâche reminded me of the 2000 Romanée-Conti. I could have bought two bottles of 1990 La Tâche for that one bottle of 2000 Romanée-Conti. Let me paraphrase the line from Forest Gump. Life is like a box of Romanée-Conti. You just don’t know what you are going to get until you pop the cork.
Jerry Kolins, MD
Certified WSET Level 3
And hopeful for the Diploma Level (Level 4)